Riding Himalayan to the Himalayas - Sikkim & Bhutan

Hello Riders & Travelers,

CAUTION : "LONG STORY AND RAW IMAGES STRAIGHT FROM MY MOBILE PHONE AND DSLR"

4977.3 km to be precise...
17 days...
3 people...
3 machines...
1 puncture...

"n" number of visits to mechanic...

This is how i can summarize my recent ride to Sikkim and western Bhutan.

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This is my first attempt in trying to pen down my memories and experiences of this ride which might be helpful for anyone planning such a ride in future. I hope you people like it and I request you to correct me if i go wrong at any point.

So I will share my experience of this ride day by day :

Day 0 (10-04-2019) : Noida - Agra (200kms)
After finishing my day at the office came back home with full of excitement, I mounted all my stuff which were already packed two days in advance on to my RE Himalayan Sleet BS-IV Non-ABS 2018 and started towards Agra at 6.30 pm.
With two small breaks at the public conveniences area along the Yamuna expressway i reached Agra at around 9.30 pm. Checked into
Zostel Agra and had a nice dinner at a restaurant next to Zostel.
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Post dinner, took a small stroll through the empty street and in no time i was on my bed knowing that i will have to start early in the morning.




Day 1 (11-04-2019) : Agra - Lucknow - Gorakhpur - Motihari (800kms)
Woke up at 5.00 am started riding towards Lucknow on the beautiful Agra-Lucknow expressway. As soon as you enter the expressway, you get to ride on one of the smoothest roads in India as on date.
The expressway is access controlled and has very limited entry/exit points. Hence you can cruise at 100kph all day long, provided you have enough fuel on the tank. Between Agra and Lucknow you can find only two rest areas where one can find fuel station, restaurant and washrooms.


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After Reaching Lucknow, "The City of Nawabs" at 10.30am i decided to meet an old friend instead of taking the bypass towards Gorakhpur. we had a good long chat for about an hour or so and got some positive feedback from him about the road conditions till Gorakhpur. I started riding towards Gorakhpur after taking a mandatory selfie with my friend, NH - 27 i am glad i chose to reach Siliguri via Gorakhpur against Varanasi road. Thanks to NH - 27, i managed to reach Motihari (via Gorakhpur) by 9.30pm.




Day 2 (12-04-2019) : Motihari - Darbhanga - Purnear - Siliguri (520kms)
Left Motihari at 7am as planned and started riding towards inner parts of Bihar (Muzaffarpur-Darbhanga-Pratapganj-Forbesganj-Purnea). Again completely on NH - 27, Very good road condition, not even a single pot hole, GPS/Google maps are not at all required as there are sufficient sign boards throughout the stretch. I never thought Bihar could be such a beautiful state. I took this image below when i got a call while riding, i must thank that person now.

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Meanwhile, my riding partners (also my friends) Harish and Ganesh had boarded their flight from Bengaluru at 10.30 am and they were supposed to land at Bagdogra at 1.30 in the afternoon. We had a quick call regarding our plans for the evening (assuming that i will reach Siliguri by 5.30pm). As i continued riding, i felt that the rear tyre has lost its grip significantly. Before starting this ride from Noida, at 15k kms on the meter i felt it was too early to change the tyre. But i felt my judgement was wrong and i asked my friends to search for a tyre and a good mechanic for some minor check up on the bike. I was still on NH - 27 after crossing Kishanganj, Islampur and Bhagabati the terrain started changing drastically and i saw some tea gardens on both sides of the road. Immediately had a chai break, started riding again.

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I reached SIliguri at around 6.30pm and joined my ride partners who had already checked into Hotel Central Courtyard. Took a shower and headed out towards mechanic shop. I found a good deal on new rear tyre for my Himalayan (CEAT GRIPP XL 120/90-17 TUBE TYPE) at just 2800/- rs including tube. I was so clear in my mind that i didn't want to take even the smallest of the risk that could hamper the ride, without even thinking for a moment i said "Bhai nikalo purana tyre aur lagado naya wala". Because the same thing will cost you anywhere between 5k to 6k if you purchase it from Royal Enfiled showroom/service center.
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My friends had booked a Classic 500 (Ganesh) and TB 350 (Harish) from BikeKiraya.com in Siliguri in advance. So they got hold of their bikes and the bikes needed some minor adjustments. So all three bikes got a check up from the mechanic and we were good to go.



Day 3 (13-04-2019) : Siliguri - Mirik - Pashupati - Darjeeling (92kms)
On the first day of ride (together) instead of taking the regular route to Darjeeling from Siliguri, we took the one which connects Indo-Nepal border areas like Mirik, Pashupati Tea estates, Lepcha jagat etc. Even though this route is 28 kms longer than the regular one, the views along the road and weather made us feel that we are approaching mountain region.

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As soon as we crossed Mirik, it started raining like cats and dogs, but i liked it. To ride in rain after riding for 2 long days in 40+ degree temperatures was not at all a problem for me. But this was not the case for Harish and Ganesh, mostly for Ganesh being his first ever Bike ride in Himalayas he started to feel the cold and unfortunately his phone got drenched in rain. Thats it, he lived his next 14 days happily without any incoming phone calls, without clicking any pictures and without chatting in WhatsApp :lol: which in turn made our life difficult.

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After one or two chai and maggie breaks, we reached Darjeeling in between 4pm to 5pm completely drenched in rain trying to safeguard mobile phones and other electronic gadgets. Checked into Serenity Home and immediately we felt we are at home. Kudos to the owners they have maintained the hotel just like a home. We made use of the heaters to dry up our cloths, shoes, jackets and literally everything. Once the rain stopped, the view for the window made us go mad!!
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We took a stroll on the wet streets of Darjeeling in the evening and we were hungry, first thing we remembered was the movie "Barfi" and the "Keventers" restaurant but unfortunately it was closed already at 8pm. We heard that the second best restaurant in Darjeeling is still open, so we entered Glenary's. The ambiance inside this restaurant was so authentic and in addition to this the live music and a chilled beer made our day.




Day 4 (14-04-2019) : Darjeeling - Pelling (75kms)
We checked out from serenity home early in the morning and visited Batasia Loop and witnessed the famous narrow track train. The war memorial of the veer martyrs of Indian Army.


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Our ride to Pelling from Darjeeling was not at all a pleasant one because though the pavement condition was good it was very steep descent for almost about 20 kms. however we reached Pelling by 3.30pm we checked into this amazing resort in the middle of nature, Magpie the chestnut retreat.


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we got freshen up quicky and headed towards India's first Skywalk near the Giant Statue of Sangachuling, unfortunately weather didn't allowed us to take good photos. it was completely cloudy and we were prepared to get drenched again.

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Day 5 (15-04-2019) : Pelling - Ravangla - Jaldapara National park (250kms)
As per my itinerary, we wanted to cover entire Sikkim first and then head towards Bhutan. But we heard the route towards Nathu la and Gurudongmar Lake is blocked due to heavy snowfall, This forced us to change our itinerary so that we allow at least a week after which the routes might be re-opened. Instead of going to Gangtok, we headed towards Phuentsholing Indo-Bhutan border visitng Ravangla in between. We were unfortunate again not to have a clear sky to witness the giant statue of Buddha at buddha park.

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with so much disappointment we started riding towards Bhutan, we were hoping to reach the border by 6pm so that we can find a nice hotel and get prepared for the paper works to be done in order to get the on-arrival Visa the next morning. But we couldn't ride fast enough because of rain in some stretches and mechanical issues to Harish's bike and we took some pictures in front of this newly built iconic bridge, Coronation bridge on Teesta river.

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Even when you do so much homework for the ride you'll definitely miss out on some small but important things, We missed out to check the working time of Bhutan Gate at Phuentsholing. The gate is open only till 10pm but we were having our dinner at a dabha till 10.30pm having no idea of this. But thanks to one local fellow who told us about this and warned us not to go near Jaigaon area (area close to Bhutan border) so late in the night, so we decided to find a place to stay nearby Jaldapara National park. With little difficulty we found a nice resort, Rhino Resort close to Jaldapara National park gate and at a very reasonable price which was more than what we were expecting at 11.30pm.




Day 6 (16-04-2019) : Jaldapara National park - Phuentsholing - Paro (170kms)
Early in the morning, we packed our stuff and mounted everything on to the bikes as usual and reached Phuentsholing (Bhutan gate) at 9am keeping in mind that we have complete the paper work for getting permits both for ourselves as well as the Bikes. As soon as we crossed the Indo-Bhutan border we were amazed by the difference, it was completely opposite in every sense be it the clealiness, road awareness and people following the rules. It took us about 3 hours to sort out the paper work and we also purchased Bhutan sim cards (Pre-activated).


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As soon as we got hold of all the papers (permits and visa), exchanged currencies though both Indian rupee (INR) and Bhutanese ngultrum work fine in Indo-Bhutan border region, We hit the roads after finishing out brunch late at 2pm. We had to show the permits and visa at 1 or 2 checkposts enroute Paro and we have to admit that the traffic awareness in Bhutan is very good. Even the roads were in great condition, we certainly enjoyed riding on those roads.

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It started to rain for just few minutes but the entire road was covered up with dense fog and we were forced ride at less than 30kph for about 10 kms. It was getting dark and we were hungry at the same time needed a break, we found a good restaurant (image on the left Below) where took some rest had maggie and Poori sabji. We reached Paro at 8.30pm approx and were blown away by the first look at this cafe just outside Paro (image on the right below).

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Checked into our hotel at Drukgyel, which is in the outskirts of Paro but is very near to Tiger's nest.






Day 7 (17-04-2019) : Paro Local sightseeing (Tiger's Nest, Rinpung Dzong, Rimpung market)
After disappointed to watch Manchester United FC loose against FC Barcelona in the champions league quarter finals, woke up little late and we headed towards the tiger's nest trail base point after finishing lite breakfast. we were in shock when we paid 500 INR per person to get an entry to the Tiger's nest trail, but still we paid the amount and started our hike. It took us about 2 n half hours to finally reach the Tiger's nest. We felt a little satisfaction when we were accompanied by a certified Guide who explained us about the history and key events relating to Tiger's nest.

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Day 8 (18-04-2019) : Paro - Chelela Pass - Thimphu (130kms)
After checking out of the hotel we headed directly towards Chele La Pass on the west of Paro and witnessed some of the highest snow capped mountain range in Western Bhutan. We took our own time in clicking some beautiful pictures with those mountains in the background.
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We then started riding towards Thimphu, Capital city of Bhutan which is at 75kms distance. We managed to reach our stay in Hotel Golden roots by 3.30 in the afternoon. Clouds looked like it is going to rain soon, so we quickly freshened up and we went out to explore Thimphu. We visited Buddha Dordenma and we were very close to Tashichho Dzong, but it started raining immediately. We didn't want to get drenched again and to sit in front of the heaters to dry off our cloths and riding gears. So we headed back to Hotel.
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Day 9 (19-04-2019) : Thimphu - Gangtok (370kms)
Even though we wanted spend some more days in Bhutan, it was time to head back to our main target that is Sikkim. We confirmed that the routes towards North and East Sikkim were operational and the permits were being issued for the same. we left Thimphu at 9am and we crossed the border at around 2.30pm. We were hoping to reach Gangtok by 7pm so that we can have some rest. But our bikes had other plans for us. headlight Bulb of my Himalayan stopped spreading light, Rear axle bearing issues, Brake pads worn out and Loose chains made us to stop in a mechanic shop for more than 2 hours. Finally at 10.30pm we were just 10 kms away from our hotel in Gangtok and the clutch cable on Harish's bike broke. Luckily we had a spare clutch cable but we couldn't able to fix it. we left the bike under a shed and reached Zero to one stay - silk route residency where we booked our stay for the night.




Day 10 (20-04-2019) : Gangtok -Tsomgo Lake - Zuluk (95kms)
This was the day i was waiting for throughout the ride, we got hold of the permits and started late because Harish had to find a mechanic so early in the morning at 8am. We left the hotel at around 10am and reached Tsomgo lake at 12.30 even though it was just 40kms we had to overtake so many taxis (Innova/Xylo). the entire surroundings covered with a blanket of snow made our journey worthwhile.

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Since the road towards Indo-China border as known as Nathu La pass was blocked due to heavy snowfall, we started riding towards Zuluk, and guess what it started to snow and in no time it got intense and we couldn't ride because of cold. We took a break had some hot maggie, chai and much needed warmness.
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The intensity of snowfall increased as the time went on and we decided not to stay there for long, We started riding in snowfall but trust me that was an amazing experience. We didn't stopped at all except at check posts for the next 20-30 kms, because we thought we would get stuck if the snowfall intensifies. After crossing Elephant Lake, we had some clear areas and we were able to take a break and click some pictures.
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Day 11 (21-04-2019) : Zuluk - Gangtok (102kms)
We started riding from Zuluk at around 9am in the morning and it was pretty simple ride, we reached Gangtok and checked into
Hotel Kanchan view by 3pm. Took some rest and headed out to explore the famously crowded MG Market area where we had some quick bite snacks and did a lot of window shopping. We also got hold of our permits for the North Sikkim circuit which was really unexpected. We took a long walk back to our hotel went down to bed as soon as we had our dinner.

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Day 12 (22-04-2019) : Gangtok - Lachen (110kms)
On this day, we knew that the ride will get tougher day by day and we already had a visit to local mechanic shop before reaching Gangtok just to have a regular check on Engine oil, brake oil levels, Brake pads condition, air pressure on the tyres, chain lubes and etc. We started at 9am and headed towards the Lachen, the base camp for Gurudongmar lake. We got the tanks topped up at Mangan the last fuel station on North Sikkim region and also carried some extra fuel in jerry cans which are available in a shop next to the fuel station (80rs per 2.5L can). With some rough patches midway to Lachen, we manged to reach Lachen by 5pm and found a Home stay/Hotel which was pretty decent at 2500/- rs for 3 people including dinner and breakfast.




Day 13 (23-04-2019) : Lachen - Gurudongmar Lake - Lachung (180kms)
Knowing that the ride towards Gurudongmar lake would be difficult we left most of our luggage in the home stay/Hotel. People usually start from Lachen before 5am and so did we at 4.45am after having a hot chai. I underestimated the cold and started with only riding gloves, But as the ride went on my hands started to become knumb i couldn't even brake properly and even clutch started to feel soo hard. We found a small fire on the side of the road and couldn't resist stopping there to get some heat. As the sun started to rise upon the mountains, the sunshine helped us to get some much needed warmth and we started to ride normal again. There was a long line at both the check posts to get our permits verified and we took turns to stand in line. at the last check post the Army canteen served us delicious momo's also they offered free Coffees and hot water to all the visitors. From this point, we started to feel the altitude and we observed some visitors feeling uneasiness. The roads were in great condition from the last check post (15 kms) except the last ascent to the lake so we were delighted to ride on such a nice roads at such high altitudes.

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The final ascent to the lake was pretty steep as well as slippery and a lot of riders struggled to reach the top. Both my friend's bikes didn't support them to ride till the top, so they parked their bikes on the side and started walking. But i decided to make it to the top and did it with full throttle on first gear. Trust me, the views were spectacular even though the lake was frozen. we started to feel uneasy, may be because of less oxygen and the altitude. We spent only about an hour clicking lots of photos and selfies and we started riding back immediately. While the ride from Lachen to gurudongmar lake took us about 6 hours, we reached Lachen on the return in just 3 hours. We had a nice lunch, packed all our stuff and began our ride towards Lachung. Lachung is 50kms away from Lachen and we took around 2 hours to cover, we reached Lachung by 8pm and we had already booked our stay at
Eden La home stay before leaving Lachen upon suggestion from the hotel owner in Lachen.




Day 14 (24-04-2019) : Lachung - Yumthang Valley - Zero point - Mangan (150kms)
While we were still in the hangover from the views that we witnessed in Gurudongmar Lake, We started riding towards our last destination which is Zero point. Even though we were disappointed not to see Yumthang valley full of blooming flowers, the valley as seen from zero point was spectacular. We had to dodge a few number of water crossings which we were expecting to as well as prepared soon after the moment we left Gangtok. Some of the steep climbs at land slide areas were challenging and made our riding little longer than we expected.




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we wanted stay for a night at some home stay in Yumthang valley, but we couldn't find a single reason to stay there since it wasn't the ideal season for witnessing flowers. hence we decided against it and continued riding after having a quick brunch. having no idea about where to stop for the night's stay, we reached mangan and decided to stay there as we were completely exhausted. We searched for a good home stay initially and ended up taking a room in Hotel tamarind.




Day 15 (25-04-2019) : Mangan - Siliguri (140kms)
This was the last day of ride for my friends Harish & Ganesh, we started late in the morning (10am) and reached Siliguri by 5pm. I wanted to check up the bike for any minor adjustments to the chain, lube, Engine oil, brake oil and other stuff in the mean time my friends returned the rented bikes and it was time for celebration. We completed our intended ride without any major breakdown and having to wait for any road block to be cleared. We had covered almost 2000 kms together in 13 days and we wanted to have good time together before we split out journeys. My friends had their return flights booked for 27th of April as per our original itinerary, so they had one extra day in Siliguri which they decided to sleep the whole day in the hotel. So we did had a great party even though we were completely exhausted, which resulted in late start for me on the next morning.




Day 16 (26-04-2019) : Siliguri - Purnea - Darbhanga - Motihari (440kms)
The ride was over for my friends but that wasn't the end for me, I still had to cross three states (West Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh) and a mammoth 1500 kms was still there to be ridden to reach home. I started at 10.30 am from Siliguri and could able to cover 440 kms only, because of late start as well as rain on some stretches. I ended up staying in a hotel in Motihari even though i intended to reach Gorakhpur.


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Day 17 (27-04-2019) : Motihari - Noida (980kms)
After a sound sleep and a good breakfast, I started to ride at 8.45am from Motihari. As per my original itinerary, I had planned to reach Noida on or before 28th April Evening (Sunday) so that i can re-join my office from Monday. Bacause i had two days left when i started from Motihari, my mind started leaning towards the idea of covering the remaining distance in one single day and to take complete rest on the other day. But i never had ridden more than 600 kms in a single day, so i came to a conclusion to ride only till the point i feel comfortable (without having any targets). Again thanks to the NH - 27, Agra - Lucknow expressway and Yamuna Expressway buttery smooth roads made it possible to reach Noida by 12.30am on 28th April which is less than 16 hours.


That completes my 5k kms ride from noida to Sikkim-Bhutan and back to Noida in 17 days and a lot of memories that would last for a lifetime.
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Gears i used for this ride

Riding Jacket : ZEUS Airdrift All Season Riding Jacket
Helmet : Axor Stelth EXIGE Full Face Helmet
Gloves : Royal Enfield Short riding V2 Gloves

Shoes : Quechua Men's hiking shoes NH100 (Mid ankle)
Tank Bag : Rynox Optimus-M V2 Tank Bag
Panniers : Royal Enfield aluminium panniers
Tail bag : Wildcraft Kailash rucksack 55L
Empocher : Trek n ride Bottle empocher (left)

Camera Body : Canon 700D
Camera lens : Canon 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 & Canon 50mm f1.8
Action camera : GoPro Hero 7 Black (not mine) and GoPro Hero 5 Black





And lastly I would be happy to answer any of your queries/doubts or any suggestions.

Happy & safe riding!!

Cheers!!
:drinkers:
 
Last edited:

ANURAG NEGI

Active Member
Hey Bro,
Nice ride
Could. You. Please share the permit procedure in sikkim or permit agent details or any help regarding permits in sikkim
 

miragerahul

Member
Toofani trip and had never seen anyone finishing their log at such a toofani speed ..hats off !!..I know you really had a time of your life on this trip. God bless you my friend!
 
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